Raising alarms about cultural shoplifting


Another case of cultural shoplifting?

“Hey Joe, that’s not yours! Put it back where it belongs.”

Oh, he’s not going to cry, is he?

What’s changed? It’s been more than a quarter century since I was last dragged into the cultural appropriation conversation.


Clearly, some in the writing classes still believe protecting the freedom of the imagination, and its expression, verges on a sacred artistic duty. Why else do they once again express fear of censorship? In my day it was Canadian novelist and playwright Timothy Findlay – may he RIP – who protected freedom; today it’s Writers’ Union of Canada magazine editor Hal Niedzviecki who doesn’t credit ‘cultural appropriation.’

But First Nations folk now can still choose to vote and many more choose to write. But we really don’t hope to convince settler writing folk their aesthetic and moral credos might need adjustment. We certainly don’t control the justice system that might actually limit their freedom of speech by institutionalizing them.

We know the reality of that threat all too well. And we’ve all we can handle now just trying to repair the damages done to our own storytelling customs by the historical interference of Church and State. Yes, we do know what censorship is about. We’ve all we can handle trying to maintain or revive or reinvent cultural expressions of our own community values.

So, maybe the biggest change this time around is there is a crowd of those writing First Nations folk, and their allies, who are able, when ‘cultural appropriation’ does seem to be occurring, to politely raise concerns, if not alarms.

Cultural shoplifting?

“Well, if you absolutely must take it, do at least try to get it right.”

He’s allowed to write it but, really, is he able? Will he do his homework, research and consult? He imagines himself so inspired.

Daniel David Moses is a playwright, poet, editor and former Western Writer-in-Residence, 1994-95, from Ohswaken, Ontario.